Making healthy food choices the easy choice!
We know that obesity is an overarching risk factor for several long-term conditions and the rising incidence of obesity and weight-related chronic lifestyle diseases is one of the biggest challenges faced by the NHS. Approximately 62% of the UK population are overweight or obese. Obesity rates are doubled in the poorest communities leading to worsening health outcomes amongst these residents.
“The Roundshaw Healthy Lifestyle project is an attempt to connect with local residents who are most in need of good advice and support around eating healthily, maintaining a healthy weight and addressing some of barriers that make it difficult for people to make healthy choices when it comes to food” said Dr Farhan Rabbani, local Wallington GP and Clinical Director for Wallington PCN.
“Many of our local residents have weight related health problems but aren’t getting the most from the services that could help them address these issues. We want to work with our local communities to help reduce the health inequalities they face – and the best place to start is by talking to local people, understanding their issues and building relationships of trust with them.”
The project aims to develop a whole systems approach to tackling obesity with a range of Sutton partners, including the NHS, Sutton Council, Sutton Public Health, the voluntary sector, housing and education all working collaboratively with local residents and independent food outlets in Roundshaw.
Dr Rabbani said: “The project’s guiding principle is to make ‘healthy eating choices the easy choice’, thus helping to reduce barriers to healthy eating habits for Roundshaw residents.”
Clare Ridsdill-Smith, Head of Public Health Integration at the London Borough of Sutton, said: “The causes of obesity are many and complex and this programme unites the whole system to address this challenge.”
“Ongoing conversations with residents are key to improving our understanding of ‘what works’ and to developing effective plans that tackle inequalities and prevent obesity.”
Roundshaw falls under the Wallington Primary Care Network (PCN) who are leading the Roundshaw Healthy Lifestyles project. The PCN is committed to the development and delivery of a healthy lifestyle action plan co-produced with the local community. To support this, the project team arranged an engagement event on 13 July 2022, at the Phoenix Centre, Roundshaw, to give residents an opportunity discuss to their health concerns with clinicians from the PCN.
Parents were able to bring their children and join in the discussions while the youngsters were having fun playing in the soft play area at the centre. A chair exercise session was organised for the adults – which was also very popular.
The discussion then focused on four questions, and residents talked about what influences the decisions they make around their food choices:
- How does your food affect your mood?
- What do you think is a healthy diet?
- What are the barriers to making healthy choices?
- Do you enjoy cooking at home?
Dr Laura Rodriquez-Benito, local GP, Clinical Lead for Population Health Management and Clinical Director Wallington PCN, said: “There were many really great conversations with residents from Roundshaw and we learnt a lot about how residents feel about food, cooking, opportunities to take exercise, healthy lifestyles, and how supported they felt with their health concerns.”
She added: “We came away with really important local insight and some brilliant ideas from residents highlighting the sort of help and support they would like and where they felt there were gaps in existing services for them. This will be invaluable in helping us develop our plan going forward.
“Most importantly, we have started developing relationships with the communities of Roundshaw, which starts to lay the foundations for us to work together better in future.”
Health inequalities workstream in Sutton
The four Primary Care Networks (PCNs) in Sutton are currently working on health inequalities projects, focusing on underserved communities in the borough. The PCNs are working in partnership with local voluntary sector, community and other organisations, such as St Mungo’s (homeless charity), Inspire Sutton (community drug and alcohol support service), Sutton Housing Partnership and Sutton Women’s Centre.
These projects aim to build sustainable support networks within local communities so that residents are empowered and equipped to build healthier, happier lifestyles for themselves and their families long term.
The PCN teams have been organising events, attending fairs, coffee mornings and resident meetings in all four of the PCNs to start getting to know the communities and for people to become comfortable and able to speak up. The teams are asking questions such as whether health is important to them, what makes it difficult to make healthy choices and what they are most worried about, to then work together to build sustainable ways of being healthy and thereby reducing health inequalities.